A few days ago, I got a newsletter from a writer who wants to defend and advance New Testament Christianity. Guess what one of the articles is about. Big hint: It's the December issue.
That's right, time to break out all of those arguments against anyone thinking himself to be a faithful Christian while remembering the birth of Jesus between September and the first of Spring.
The article begins with the writer's appreciation for Irving Berlin's "White Christmas." And, he says, there's so much more that's good about this season.
Snow on December 25th? That's good. Presents? Good. Families together? Good. Eating? Good. Christmas trees? They're good too.
But Christians "conducting special Christmas services"? Now that's bad! In fact, it's right to question any group who would highlight the birth of Jesus at this time of year simply (and I quote), "because we want to do so."
I can only hope that this brother means well. But if he does, then I really wish he'd take another look at Paul's Letter to the Romans. There the Scripture says that if someone wants to consider one day more special than another, then that's between him and God. And if someone decides to tell this special-day Christian that he's wrong or bad, then God wants to ask that someone, "Why do you judge your brother? Why do you look down on him? Won't each one give an account of himself?" (see Romans 14:1-12).
But, of course, Romans 14 isn't the passage quoted in the article. Instead, the writer goes to Galatians 4:10-11, which says, "You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest by any means I have labored for you in vain."
Now, I'm guessing that our writer would be among the first to say that the words of Scripture can only be understood in context, and that the immediate literary context, the surrounding paragraph, is the really critical part.
So then, what is the immediate context of the statement in Galatians 4? It appears that Christians who had gotten off to good start with God were now turning back to serve "weak and miserable principles." Their observance of special times was not something done towards God (the Romans scenario). Rather, their observance was meant as obedience to former masters who never even held the true status of "gods" (Galatians 4:8-11). It's a vast difference.
In the New Testament, the question is not, "May we observe special days?" Rather, the question is, "Why do you want to observe special days, and who is the object of your devotion?" If the practice is some kind of supplement to faith in Christ or different from devotion to God, then forget it. Don't do it. But if you want to do it because you love God, trust in his Son, and for some reason that time means something special to you, then by all means, do it to the honor of your Lord.
Now, which one of those two alternatives describes a congregation that wants to remember and honor the birth of Christ at this time of year?